2018 Shero of the Year: Shuri

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Dec 28, 2018, 3:00 PM EST

Black Panther hit theaters with a force that can't be measured. It was more than a film — it was a movement, a source of inspiration and empowerment. There is no shortage of heroes in Black Panther, and so many of those heroes were women. Powerful, smart, with good hearts and unyielding courage, the women of Black Panther are each and all vastly important.

But there is one character who stood out, who didn't merely steal the movie — we want to give her the keys to the entire MCU. We're of course talking about our favorite STEM princess, judger of shoes, flipper of birds, Shuri.

These are just a few of the reasons Shuri is our 2018 Shero of the Year.

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She returned from the dead as a griot with the ability to transmorph into birds

Shuri won a lot of hearts in the Black Panther movie for many great reasons, many of them on this list. Yet, Shuri likewise has a pretty amazing comic book history, and even just in the last few years has done things like, I don’t know, become a griot with transmutation abilities. After sacrificing her life to hold off the villain Proxima Midnight during a battle, Shuri tragically died and went to the Djalia, the Wakandan afterlife. Existing somehow between life and death, she was accompanied by a mentor griot that took on the form of her mom to comfort her. Sidenote, Shuri loves her mom, and it’s extremely cute. So, Shuri did sadly die (temporarily) but T’Challa in turn bravely fought to bring her back from the land of the dead and she returned able to turn into a whole flock of birds. It was amazing. - Sara Century


Redefining princess clothing expectations

Fancy gowns with a tiny cinched-in waist are thankfully no longer the default for a Disney princess. Playing dress-up can be fun, but expanding princess attire beyond these rigid parameters is good for everyone. In Ralph Breaks the Internet, Venellope (Sarah Silverman) introduced the concept of loungewear to animated Disney royalty, but back in February, Shuri was already redefining teen princess sartorial expectations. Black Panther costume designer Ruth E. Carter uses mesh and leather fabrics to create a tech-inspired look. This is athleisure at its finest, right down to Shuri’s solid sneaker game. It is contemporary and stylish while nodding to Shuri’s skills as a scientist and her regal position. Her wardrobe reflects the occasion; she can be battle ready and dress appropriately for important ceremonies. However, Shuri doesn’t have to compromise her talent and interests in order to be or dress like a princess. - Emma Fraser


Her new comic series rules so hard

Written by acclaimed science-fiction author Nnedi Okorafor with the stellar art team of Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire, and Joe Sabino, this book was destined to amaze. In the first pages of the story, T’Challa and Shuri’s romantic interest Manifold both go on a mission, then they vanish for weeks, leaving everyone concerned and puzzled as to what might have become of them. Shuri busies herself doing things like testing her amazing new wings, a mix between her mechanical genius and her abilities as a mystic. Her mother chides her for flying everywhere rather than taking transportation, which she completely ignores because Shuri is the coolest teen. It turns out her mother has taken it on herself to assemble a group of Wakandan women who will hold counsel with one another in times of worry, which is one of the coolest Wakandan subplots introduced in a while. The women have decided that in T’Challa’s absence, Shuri must become Black Panther once more — and all this happens in the first issue. This comic is amazing and one of the most drop-dead gorgeous books to hit the stands. - Sara Century

T'Challa and Shuri

She and her brother are adorable together

Siblings, especially royal ones, rarely get along. There is jealousy, jockeying for the throne, and sometimes murder. Not so at all with Shuri and T’Challa. From the moment we see them together after T’Challa returns from a mission, their relationship is clear. They are friends. They adore each other. They tease each other. She gives T’Challa crap about bringing his ex on a mission. She asks Okoye if he froze when he saw Nakia. (He froze.) She cannot handle his foot fashion choices, and rightly so. No one wants to see your toes, king or not. She makes jokes about him messing up her lab. She gives him the finger in front of mom. Even dramatic events don’t shake them. After the huge battle with Killmonger, T’Challa takes Shuri to California for a dramatic gesture…and she jokes about her first trip to California not being to Coachella. Come on, you wish your relationship with your sibling was this cool! - Jenna Busch


The Vibranium gauntlets she developed

They may not be the most important gauntlets to appear in the MCU in 2018, but Shuri’s Vibranium gauntlets sure do pack a punch. Just when things are at their worst in the film, when it seems that T’Challa will never regain the throne, the badass women in his life, including Shuri, come to his aid. Her hair, her face paint, her garb, and her powerful panther-shaped gauntlets are strictly business — as evidenced by how they temporarily slow Killmonger, allowing T’Challa to challenge him one-on-one. We know that the gauntlets, designed and created by Shuri, have at least two settings, including single sonic wave shots and continuous sonic beams. Who knows what advancements she’ll make to the gauntlets when she’s back from non-existence? We can only hope and wait for the day that Shuri is back on Earth, and hopefully, the next Black Panther. - S.E. Fleenor


Her sense of humor is the best

You don’t see a lot of Princesses with a sense of humor. Sure, there are a few here and there, but the jokes are usually about being awkward, or zippy lines about how they’re going to, by gum, go off and slay, escape, etc. Shuri’s brilliance is already an accepted thing, so she can just be her awesome self. (Imagine if we were all just accepted like that.) No one comments on how she’s brilliant, for a girl, or how unusual it is for her to be so. Shuri’s humor can that of a normal, yet insanely smart teenager. She gives her brother the finger, interrupts a sacred ceremony with a good natured “This corset is really uncomfortable, so could we all just wrap it up and go home?” She gives T’Challa crap for his sandals (which are pretty bad), and good-naturedly teases Ross about being a colonizer and a broken white boy. Can we just get a road trip movie with Nakia, Okoye, and Shuri? - Jenna Busch


Her immeasurable real-life impact

There are a million reasons to love Shuri, but it's her sheer joy and love of STEM that may be most inspiring to audiences. Not only does Shuri easily excel at science and technology in a way even Bruce Banner and Tony Stark couldn't match, these fields excite her. Her happiness, her downright giddiness at her newly created devices, is palpable. And that's something that's important to Wright as an actor. ""I got a lot of messages, especially from young women, who were so happy to see themselves on screen, they were so happy to see someone making science and technology cool...You have a character that's so well rounded and so relatable, that those girls that don't feel isolated anymore," Wright told Mashable. "This person is sticking up for me, this person is saying, 'hey I am cool.'" Wright took Shuri's impact and turned it into real-life activism, working with Shell on its Eco-marathon, an event in which engineering students design and create cars to complete a race using the least amount of energy. Thanks to heroes like Shuri and Wright, girls can truly see what they can be. - Courtney Enlow